By Brittany Rose
Living in a tiny town in the middle of Thailand doesn’t seem exciting to most people, but even in the middle of nowhere, there is no shortage of amazing weekend adventures.
Elephants are the largest land animal, as well as one of the oldest. Their species have been roaming the Earth since pre-historic times. That being said, they are dying off at such alarming rates that they will be extinct in the next 15 years, predictably. The leading cause of death isn’t poaching, it’s actually the tourism industry (In Thailand, anyway).
I have been blessed to work with two in particular that I love. One is the Elephant Sanctuary. I have donated time and money there during the long breaks between semesters. I help make food, clean stalls, and clear fire breaks. Between jobs I witness elephants playing in the mud, kissing and bathing.
On the weekends, I found an elephant temple in my very own province, Mahasarakham. There I met a wonderful monk who was the only mahout (elephant caretaker) for 7 elephants. I asked him if I could help him and he agreed. I became his understudy and work Saturdays to clean stalls, organize food and sweep the temple grounds. It was hard work, with no praise… except once.
One time before I was leaving, I was feeding the only elephant I could get close to. I was always very respectful of his space, but on this occasion, he wrapped his trunk around my waist and pulled me in for a hug. It was the scariest moment of my life, as I realized he could use all 4,000 of his trunk muscles to throw me over the temple walls. But once he released me I felt honored that he wanted to show me affection. I knew then that I would never ever ride, watch or participate in animal tourism again.
For more information on elephants, go to my blog: thewindowseat.tumblr.com
Baan Luk Rak is a wonderful home to about 50 children ranging from one month to 18 years old. They also teach the children on the premises, so they have a very big job with only 2 full time adults. Some of the children have been orphaned, others have been abused and some come from loving families that simply can’t afford them.
Going to Baan Luk Rak is a wonderful treat for everyone involved, and I don’t mean it’s fun because you have a feeling that you are giving back (although, there is tons of those feelings around the home); rather, it is actually fun! I have learned how to make mud bricks that we have used to make mud homes. Did you know a mud hut will last over 100 years? I didn’t. Those structures have been used as game rooms, libraries and dance halls.
Not only is it a great time to hang out with kids (without the added pressure of teaching them anything) but I’ve learned so much about how to build and Thai life.
In Thailand everyone has a side-hustle. Even top-notch scientists and business owners sell beauty products on the side, have a banana farm, or sell Thai desserts at the market. I found early on that speaking English makes me pretty popular, so that became my side-hustle.
It’s been a great and easy exchange for me. I give them something while I get something too. I will tutor for food, hair-cuts, rides, or even just as party tricks. Not only have I traded some really important services through my English skills, but I have made some great friends who now like family to me.
Ultimately, the best advice I can give about how to spend time outside of the classroom is, give. Give time to animals, give time to other children, give time to your neighbors. If you give as much as you can, I assure you that you will get much more from your Thailand experience than you ever expected.
For more information stories about Brittany Rose’s experience in Thailand, visit her personal blog: thewindowseat.tumblr.com